Full title: Flea: Adventures in Spontaneous Jamming and Techniques
Year: 1993
Publisher: Hal•Leonard
Time: Approx. 60 minutes
Formates: VHS and DVD
Stars: Flea, Chad Smith (jamming partner on drums) and host River Phoenix

"I don't wanna imitate anybody or be like anybody, but I wanna be open to everything."
- Flea

Description:

This is a bass instructional feature starring Flea, the acclaimed bassist from Red Hot Chili Peppers. The feature consists of 2 parts, which are clipped together and alternated. The first part features Flea and his fellow bandmate Chad Smith (drums). Together, they jam out spontaneously, and although they improvise 100% they still manage to cover a wide range of musical styles. There's no talk going on here, which means that there isn't any breaks where Flea (and Chad) are discussing what they are playing or such. The other part features a sort of talk down session where Flea is interviewed by his friend, the late River Phoenix. Flea talks about his musical life in general, his influences, his various styles and his philosophies. Although the focus is mainly contained on a lingual level, Flea occasionally demonstrates his various techniques and styles.

Included (atleast in the DVD version) is also a small booklet with tabulatures and notations of some of the jams and demonstrations that Flea performs in the feature.

Review:

I'm a bass player and a great fan of Flea. For years I have admired his style, and have played along to Red Hot Chili Peppers records in the quest to develop my style. I bought the DVD version a few months ago, hoping to learn more, and I certainly did. However, don't expect the same unless you're fairly adept on the bass. The term "instructional" is very misleading. As Flea says in the beginning, he relies (or did at that time at least) solely on his own intuition and ability to improvise, rather than on theory. That means, you won't hear him talk about scales, or patterns, or anything else in that lingo. Secondly, Flea does very little to explain verbally how he executes his various techniques, especially his slapping, which I could presume the majority would be interested in. He does demonstrate and slow down slaplines in songs like Black Eyed Blonde,Skinny Sweaty Man and Get Up and Jump, but again, he isn't instructing, merely displaying what he does. Arguably, you could say that this is instructing in itself (and it is), however again I must say that I personally think the term is misleading in this genre, and that people could be left disappointed. Finally, the DVD itself is not very high tech. I've seen other DVDs where there are slow motion replays, or tablature scrolling at the bottom of the screen. None of that here. To conclude, if you're a beginner on the bass, or if you want to learn techniques (like slapping) and/or theory, I suggest you find a feature which is specifically orientated in that direction.

Well, what DO you get then? Primarily, you get a complete insight in Flea as a musician and individual. Every bass player who is interested in Flea, be it beginner or advanced, can be sure to find out more about the guy. Secondly, you get a great view at the techniques that Flea executes. As I said before, Flea doesn't explain much, he just does it. And if you're familiar with, say the basic concepts of slapping, you can learn tremendously by just watching and listening to him jam out. I especially improved greatly in both slapping and fingerstyle improvisation, just by watching him play. Finally, Flea also gives some simple, but useful advice on how to improvise with other musicians. To conclude, Flea doesn't instruct, he presents his style for you to study or modify or whatever you choose to do with it. You're on your own, but you can still learn a lot.

Techniques displayed by Flea:
    Slapping
    Funky fingerstyle
    Arpeggio
    Open string droning

"It'll be hard for me and you to talk about theory since neither of us knows a damn thing about it."
- Flea, responding to River who asked if they were going to talk about theory

The Jams:
  1. Tour de Flea: The jam that kicks of the feature is a sort of tour de force of Flea's various techniques. He starts off in a mellow, dreamy arpeggio, using the open strings. He then transcends into a chord strumming phase, which is quickly replaced by some harder fingerstyle playing that gradually becomes faster and faster. The jam explodes towards the end in a furious slap riff.


  2. Slapping: Flea demonstrates the fast slapping/popping technique that has made him famous. It's impressing to hear how solid, yet varied Flea can slap. Towards the end Flea breaks into some fingerstyle which gradually mellows out.


  3. Overdrive: Flea steps on his overdrive box and flows into a bass solo.


  4. Speed Slap: In this jam Flea demonstrates just how fast he can slap, yet still manage to keep it solid and funky.


  5. Envelope Filter: This is probably one of my favorite jams on the feature. Flea steps on his envelope filter box (ala Bootsy Collins) and lays down the funk with his fingerstyle approach. Especially noteworthy is the way Flea uses breaks, chromatic walks and open strings to enhance the funky feeling. A perfect example of a jam you can learn a lot from by just listening.


  6. Light Slapping: A short little jam where Flea slaps primarily on the D and G string, something which is harder than you may immediately think.


  7. Mellow: Flea jams softly and slowly, using both chords and open string arpeggio.


  8. Jumpy: A soft, sort of jumpy riff. Probably the most awkward jam, which never really gets time to develop.


  9. More Envelope Filter: Flea once again lays down the funk with his envelope filter. This time he incorporates chords and slapping. People claiming that Flea's technique suck should shut up and listen to this.
Notes:

Concerning equipment, Flea uses his black Music Man Stingray bass in this feature. His cabinets are from Mesa Boogie and the head is a Gallien Krueger 800RB. The envelope filter is a DODFX25, which isn't produced anymore, but there's a newer version of it called DODFX25B. I own the newer version, and I can recommend it. I'm not sure what the overdrive box he uses is called.

Flea's bass is not tuned standardly.

This was one of the last features that River Phoenix appeared in before he overdosed. Flea was with him in the ambulance when he passed away. Later on, Flea wrote Transcending a song from One Hot Minute which is dedicated to River.

Sources:

1) The DVD version of the feature.
2) My head.

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